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Spielberg, Crichton Cleared in 'Twister' Piracy Suit

Movies: Man who claimed director, author stole from his screenplay had sought all of the blockbuster's profits.

January 29, 1998|From Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — Director Steven Spielberg and author Michael Crichton were found not guilty Wednesday of pirating a man's screenplay to make the 1996 hit movie "Twister."

Stephen Kessler had claimed that Spielberg; Crichton; Crichton's wife, Anne-Marie Martin; Warner Bros.; and Universal Studios had used his screenplay, "Catch the Wind," to make "Twister."

He had sought all of the movie's profits, which his lawyer estimated to be about $150 million.

After the verdict was read, Kessler attempted to shake Crichton's hand, but Crichton refused. As he left the courthouse, Crichton restated his innocence.

"I've never heard of this person until the lawsuit came out," he said.

Crichton said he has faced similar accusations in the past and has always been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Kessler said he would appeal.

The verdict brings to close a three-week trial during which both Spielberg and Crichton testified.

In his closing statement, Kessler's lawyer, Martin Green, accused Crichton of making a career out of taking parts of novels and movies written by others and incorporating them into his own works.

"But in this case, he took a little bit too much from 'Catch the Wind,' " Green said.

Crichton's lawyer, Jim Zapp, said Crichton and Martin have never seen Kessler's script and came up with the script for "Twister" on their own.

Zapp acknowledged that Crichton and Martin used several resources to develop the plot for the movie, but he said Kessler's script was not one of them. He also stressed that the couple added their own comic and romantic twists.

Spielberg, testifying before the 10-member federal court jury, said he had never seen or heard of Kessler's script.

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